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Thunder 111, Clippers 88

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm •  Published: February 23, 2011

News, notes and observations from Tuesday’s win over the Clippers.

  • The most significant thing of the night had nothing to do with anything on the court. The most intriguing action surfaced following multiple reports that claim the Thunder is actively searching for a center as Thursday’s trade deadline approaches. Denver’s Nene was at the center of the reports Tuesday, and the Thunder was linked to Memphis shot-blocker Hasheem Thabeet as well. I haven’t heard anything that suggests the Thunder is close to a deal for either player, and my feeling is what’s being reported is snippets of standard conversations. It’s no secret that the Thunder needs improved inside play so the organization is going to be linked to just about every player over 6-9. And the front office would be crazy to not be taking and making calls. So none of the reports come as a surprise. I’ve written that the Thunder has the assets to get a deal done. But I wouldn’t hold my breath for any sort of blockbuster.
  • Now to the game. This is what the Thunder is supposed to do to bad teams. Lost in all the Blake Griffin hype was the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers are still the Clippers. They’re 15 games below .500, and the Thunder walked over them like the bottom feeder that they are. Very encouraging result, especially when combined with the Sacramento massacre just before the break.
  • The real test comes Wednesday at San Antonio. Starting with the Spurs, and continuing in Orlando on Friday and back here against the L.A. Lakers on Sunday, we’ll get a true sense of where this Thunder team is in this home stretch.
  • A huge key in the win tonight was the play of the Thunder’s role players. Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, James Harden, Eric Maynor and Daequan Cook all stepped up in a big way to overcome a poor shooting night from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Each guy chipped in something and made an impact.
  • Who would have guessed Durant and Westbrook would combine for 34 points on 32 shots and Green and Harden would combined for 41 points on 23 shots? Not me.
  • Give Green credit for this one. He started off in foul trouble but shook off those early struggles and bounced back with a nice offensive performance. What stood out early on is how Green was making the most out of garbage. He found ways to score and capitalized on opportunities when the ball was swung his direction. Classic game for the man known as Uncle Jeff.
  • I thought Harden was exceptional tonight. Not perfect, but exceptional. He had only one assist (a beautiful drive and dish to Durant), but his playmaking was better than the assist column gave him credit for. At times, he made the pass that led to the assist. And his shooting touch was on target tonight. He was aggressive unlike he usually is, and his 12 shots tied Green for the second most tonight. More of this type of effort would be welcomed, I’m sure.
  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks reiterated at this morning’s shoot-around that Thabo Sefolosha is not on a minute count, adding the starting shooting guard is healing well from his knee injury. “I thought the last game, he moved as well as he moved before he hurt his knee,” Brooks said. “If needed, he can play 30-something minutes.” Well, Sefolosha got only 15 minutes tonight and he’s played more than 20 minutes only once since returning from a three-game absence. If Sefolosha is healthy and not getting minutes, naturally that leads one to wonder if his burn is being transferred to others. Brooks’ answer to that questions wasn’t as resolute as it’s been in the past regarding Sefolosha’s spot. “The thing that I like is we have some depth there,” Brooks said. “Guys have to play their minutes hard and well because we have guys that can step up and play and play well. It’s hard to play three guys in one position. But I will try to find it whenever I can.”
  • Meanwhile, Cook continued to pile on the pressure. He made just one shot, a 3-pointer of course, in just a shade less than seven minutes tonight. And while that might not sound like much, Brooks loves Cook’s ability to heat up in a heartbeat. That alone is forcing Brooks to make a decision on divvying up playing time a little differently. It didn’t hurt that Cook’s lone make tonight was a deflating bomb that gave the Thunder a 16-point halftime lead.
  • Sefolosha said he’s close to shedding his knee brace and added that his knee is feeling better. “Those days really helped,” he said. “I feel good right now.”
  • Am I the only one who thinks Clippers forward Al-Farouq Aminu looks like Dwight Howard’s little brother? I can’t be.
  • Nenad Krstic struggled with his shooting touch as well, scoring five points on 1-for-5 shooting. But he said the finger injury he sustained in the game against Sacramento before the break isn’t bothersome even though his left ring finger is still swollen. “It’s still a little swollen. But it’s my left hand. I don’t really use my left hand,” Krstic said. “It’s kind of an old injury just re-injured again. I’m just going to tape it up and play.”
  • Griffin is a beast. That’s really all that needs to be said.
  • Jeers go out to the Thunder for how it handled Griffin’s pre-game intro. He was the fourth player announced in the Clippers’ starting lineup, which left little to no time for the fans to show their appreciation for not only his play but also his professionalism. Poor decision on the Thunder’s part.
  • Cheers go out to the Thunder fans. The Thunder faithful gave Griffin a mighty ovation when he was announced and welcomed him back home with open arms for his pro debut in OKC. And just like good fans should do, you fell silent when he scored his first bucket. You cheered when he was whistled for his first foul. You erupted when he clanged his first foul shot. The only time you went gaga for Griffin was when he skied for an alley-oop from Baron Davis, catching it with one hand after spinning off Ibaka and slamming it home. The play deserved your approval. But most importantly, the throw down was just one highlight in what was already a thumping. The bucket pulled the visitor to within 20 with 7:20 left on the clock.
  • Not much went wrong for the Thunder tonight. But two plays really caused me to shake my head. In the final two minutes, the Thunder failed to get a shot off twice. Durant passed off to a teammate with two seconds showing on the shot clock and forced his team into a shot clock violation. And Harden did the same at the quarter buzzer, which prevented the Thunder from breaking a 23-all tie.
  • I hope fans appreciate how truly great Westbrook’s block on Eric Bledsoe with 4:20 left in the second quarter was. Point guards aren’t supposed to make those types of plays.
  • The Thunder tied a season low with seven turnovers tonight. Considering the Thunder is coming off a weeklong hiatus, that was the most impressive stat of the night. The Clippers scored just two points off those giveaways. Big key to the victory.
  • OKC’s 15-0 run to end the second quarter and provide the 16-point lead was the difference tonight. The Clippers were completely cooked at that point.
  • Early foul trouble gave Cole Aldrich a chance to get some burn tonight. And he made the most of it. He had two points (on a nifty baseline spin for a dunk), five boards and a blocked shot. Not bad for his first action since Dec. 22. Cole showed he clearly has developed defensively. And he rebounded like he never wanted to go back to the bench. Said Durant: “He came in and got four quick rebounds for us; played great defense. “He looked fluid on the offensive end. So I was happy for him. After not playing for so long and then coming in and giving us some great minutes, that’s what we needed from him. And I’m sure if he gets the playing time he’s going to continue to play well.”
  • And then there’s this from Brooks. The coach said Aldrich’s promotion to the active list was not a one-time maneuver done due to the possibility of foul trouble tonight in the back of his mind. “I think it’s time,” Brooks said. “He had a great two days of practice before the break, and he had a good month in Tulsa. It’s time. He’s earned an opportunity to dress. It’s nothing that Cole doesn’t do. It’s what we have. Serge, Nick and Nenad do a great job of filling that position.”
  • To make room for Aldrich, D.J. White was sent to the inactive list.
  • Last year, players insisted they weren’t concerned with playoff seeding. Now, it’s already becoming a talking point. And I think better positioning should be a goal. “It’s very important, especially with how tight the West is in the playoff race,” Durant said about getting off to a good start in the final 28 games. “We want to get as high as we can…We got a good win, something we can build on.”

-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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